Niall is a gardener and creator of the channel ‘Niall Gardens’ on YouTube. He presents segments on TV and radio and is the winner of the Garden Media Guild’s Alan Titchmarsh New Talent of the Year award 2022. Niall takes us on a journey through his vegetable garden in summer, and tells us about what he’s growing, things that are cropping and what his plans are for later in the year.
OK, so I might be biased because this is home, but Ireland is a special place to have a garden. The weather can be changeable here. In fact, there’s a saying that you can get ‘every season in one day’; I even remember seeing snow on May Day! But it’s that climate of mild winters and cool summers thanks to the Atlantic Ocean that makes summers so fresh, lush and green. So, here’s what’s happening in my vegetable garden in summer.
All those months of wishing and hoping, preparation and nurturing suddenly pays off in what feels like a deluge of just brilliant things. And they’re all easy to grow. Even a small double row of peas sown in modules and planted out a couple of months ago is giving me bowlful after bowlful of peas. After one failed overwinter planting of broad beans, the second rather sad looking plants have still given me a few dinners’ worth of beans, and they taste all the better for the victory! Salad leaves and herbs can be picked daily whenever they’re needed. I don’t aim to be self-sufficient, but always having at least one or two things to pick and eat feels special.
THE IRISH SUMMER. MY TWO FAVOURITE DAYS OF THE YEAR!
Summer here is never a sure-fire thing. One moment it’s sunny and warm, the next you’re running to take shelter from the rain. With climate change, I’ve changed how I feel about Irish summers. I now consider myself lucky that I rarely have to worry about watering the garden, let alone worrying about whether the supplies of water are there in the first place. So as long as my feet are dry, I’ll brave as much of the showers as I want until I retreat to the greenhouse!
WHAT TO SOW NOW
In the middle of summer, I’m still sowing seeds with two goals in mind. Getting ahead and quick wins. I have my go-to box of seeds that I successionally sow regularly; two favourite salad mixes, rocket, chard, spinach, kale and ‘Bull’s Blood’ beetroot for baby salad leaves, and radishes. These will grow quickly and will be enjoyed just as quickly. I wish I could say I’ve nailed future planning when it comes to food growing, but I haven’t! But I sow beetroot, carrots, purple sprouting broccoli, kales, and cabbages for Autumn, Winter, and into next Spring.
BEAUTY AND PRODUCTIVITY
I happily give up what could be productive growing space for flowers and colour. It’s that colour that brings me out into the garden each day and you know what? It’s a different, but massively important kind of productivity. Biodiversity isn’t some abstract idea, it’s what happens here right now. It pollinates my food crops, eats the aphids, and feeds the birds. Even though it’s midsummer, it’s not too late. Great flowers can still be bought and added into gaps.
IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS
The tasks I prioritise now are the ones that are so obvious that I think we often relegate them for other things, thinking them too simple. But I think that’s where success lies. These are the jobs that keep things going and producing more; more flowers, more food. Dead-heading is so easy but so worth it to keep sweet pea plants going strong, or almost any summer flowers at that. Watering and weeding keep things in top form.
Here’s where I think the magic lies. All these jobs, all the things that are happening, they make you look. And sense. And think. Is that plant happy here? I wonder what would fill this gap and out-compete the weeds? What amazing things could I plant here next year? It’s that thinking, the layers of hundreds of little decisions that makes a garden so precious and personal.
Niall wears the Muckster Lite Clog.
Niall is also on Instagram - @niallgardens.